Highlights from the Crop Physiology Lab

We plant approximately 12,000 corn plots and 6,000 soybean plots across three locations in Illinois each year.


The ASA-CSSA International meetings was held Nov. 10-13, 2019. Presentations included:

Is there a better way to fertilize corn with potassium? abstract 

Does the management system for corn production influence the response to plant growth regulators and biostimulants? abstract

Elucidating mechanisms of biostimulant products on nutrient uptake, growth, and yield of corn abstract

Variation among commercial corn hybrids in response to agronomic management abstract 

Can NPK fertilization simultaneously increase yield and seed quality of soybean? abstract

A new biostimulant increases nitrogen use efficiency and grain yield in maize abstract 

Does maize need pre-plant N if sub-drip fertigation can be used to provide season-long N? abstract


The Illinois Agronomy Day was August 22, 2019, our presentations included:

The quest for high yield corn

Subsurface drip irrigation, more than just water.

Are narrow rows the future of corn production?

Biologicals and biostimulants; what are they, and where do they work?


American Society of Agronomy Meetings was November 4-7, 2018 with 6 presentations from the Crop Physiology Lab:

Ascertaining the best management practices for nitrogen fertility in corn. presentation abstract

Polyhalite alters uptake and partitioning of mineral nutrients in maize. poster

Does agronomic management affect maize yield response to growth regulators and biostimulants? poster 

Can agronomic management simultaneously increase protein concentration and yield in soybean? poster 

Previous management alters residue characteristics and yield of corn after corn. poster 

Characterizing commercial corn hybrids for yield responses to agronomic management. poster 


Congratulations to 2018 ASA-CSSA- SSSA Photography contest 2nd place winner Brad Bernhard 

soybeans pushing up crusted soil


Agronomy Day was August 16, 2018 with 4 presentations from the Crop Physiology Lab:

(booklet .pdf of four presentations here)

N Fertilization in Corn (Fred Below) presentation .pdf

Hybrid-specific management (Eric Winans) presentation .pdf

Continuous Corn (Alison Vogel) presentation .pdf

Narrow Rows (Brad Bernhard) presentation .pdf


Webinar: What we've learned from nitrogen-on-beans research. Feb. 21, 2018 link


Feb. 19-20, 2018. Nitrogen and phosphorus management to increase nutrient use efficiency and corn grain yield. Fluid Forum link


Congratulations to 2017 ASA-CSSA- SSSA Photography contest 2nd place winner Brad Bernhard in two categories:

soybeans pushing up crusted soil
SSSA Division- Soils Sustain Life: Crusted Soils. Optimal soil conditions are crucial for proper soybean emergence. A heavy rain after planting resulted in soil surface crusting. These resilient soybeans pushed through the crust; however, the neighboring soybeans were not so lucky.


wheat ready to harvest but rain is on horizon
ASA Division- Agronomy Feeds the World: Harvest on Hold. Wheat is one of the leading crops for direct human consumption. Harvest was delayed as a passing storm created a beautiful evening sky. This storm was over the wheat research plots on the South Farms at the University of Illinois.


Nov. 15-16, 2017 North Central Extension-Industry Soil Fertility Conference in Des Moines, IA. website


Oct. 22-25, 2017 International ASA-CSSA-SSSA meetings in Tampa, FL. presentations included:

Do Soybeans Respond to Management? Identifying Which Management Factors Have the Greatest Impact on Soybean Yields. Times and abstract .pdf

Can Narrow Row Spacing be Used to Manage Higher Planting Densities of Corn? Time and abstract .pdf

Mitigating the Continuous Corn Yield Penalty with Residue and Agronomic Management. Time and abstract .pdf


Aug. 17, 2017 UI Agronomy Day- download the proceedings booklet here

Tour D highlights:

1. The Seven Wonders of Corn yield- Fred Below

2. How Critical are Soil Phosphorus Test Values? - Tryston Beyrer

3. Knocking out the Continuous Corn Yield Penalty- Alison Vogel

4. Can Narrow Row Spacings be used to Manage More Corn Plants? - Brad Bernhard


Mar. 6-7, 2017- Learn about Genomic Selection for Agronomic Traits Using Maize ex-PVP Germplasm at the 53rd Annual Illinois Corn Breeders' School


Feb. 20-22, 2017- Hear about Efficient Management of Water and Nutrient Resources: Assessing the Potential for Drip Irrigation and Fertigation. by Dr. Fred Below and Ross Bender, University of Illinois at the 2017 Fluid Forum
(you may need to scroll down the page)


Dr. Fred Below reviewed five years of research on “The Six Secrets of Soybean Success," a concept for producing high-yield soybeans which he evaluated in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Six Secrets demonstrates how growers can put technologies together for increasing soybean yields through intensive crop management. In addition, Dr. Below also reviews some of his work on when soybeans need supplemental nitrogen.  1 CEU in Crop Management Available. Webinar video is here

Results from corn hybrids' reponse to fertilizer and planting density in 2016, a.k.a. Management Yield Potential (corn MYP) as a .pdf (1 MB).


Results from soybean varieties' reponse to fertilizer and foliar protection in 2016, a.k.a. Management Yield Potential (soybean MYP) as a .pdf (1 MB).


Read the results from the 2015 subsurface fertigation experiment published in the Fluid Journal Winter 2017 issue, or as a .pdf.


Can we grow 150 bu/acre beans?

mid-season soybean plants

Here's what was presented at the 2016 American Society of Agronomy Meetings November 6-9 in Phoenix, AZ

























July 19, 2016 Anthony Antoine from WCIA Morning Show learned about Crop Physiology and the UIUC Chancellor- designate Dr. Robert Jones.


June 27, 2016 Mo Augustino of Farms.com Risk Management learned about producing high- yield corn on his 2016 5th annual U.S. Corn Belt crop tour (scroll down to hear Dr. Below). (direct link to YouTube video here)


January 8, 2016, the Lab hosted the inaugral Farmer Research Summit, with participants from Illinois and Indiana, sponsored in part by CPS and FS.

For a recap of the presentations, see this page.



In 2014, we fully installed, in cooperation with Netafim, a subsurface drip irrigation and fertigation system for corn and soybean production. We are evaluating various subsurface fertigation strategies under standard and intensive management practices. Preliminary results suggest that drip irrigation was effective for increasing yield, especially if extra phosphorus fertility was also part of the overall management system.


More information on corn nutrient uptake can be found here.


Read the results from the 2015 subsurface fertigation experiment published in the Fluid Journal Winter 2017 issue, or as a .pdf.


Drip irrigation

With the support of the Illinois Soybean Association and a number of industry partners, we are identifying management practices (‘The Six Secrets of Soybean Success’) which have the greatest impact on soybean yield. We have a total of ten soybean omission plot trials planted at our three research sites in Illinois. In these trials we are evaluating the contributions of extra phosphorus fertility, variety, fungicide, insecticide, seed treatment, and row spacing on yield of soybean under traditional and intensive management systems.


Also, check out the soybean nutrient uptake, yield components and N on Beans studies!

Wisdom shared in the popular press:



Thinking in-furrow for improved performance


Strongest Start Leads to Strongest Finish
Strongest Start Leads to Strongest Finish

Strongest Start Leads to Strongest Finish


Responding to Your Soil Test Results


Protect those pods


Six Secrets of Soybean Success 2017 webinar